Elected and law enforcement officials have formed the new countywide Anti-Violence Effort Response Team (AVERT) comprised of law-enforcement officials, social workers and mental health experts as they tackle an ongoing surge in gun violence and violent crime in Ulster County.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, Sheriff Juan Figueroa, District Attorney Dave Clegg and Kingston Mayor Steve Noble announced the new task force which will initially consist of detectives, officers and county social workers and mental health experts in a press conference outside the Kingston Library on July 20.
The task force is a partnership between the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office and the Kingston, Ellenville, New Paltz and Saugerties police departments. These agencies will partner with community leaders, faith leaders and mentors with the goal of combating violent crimes, getting illegal guns off of the streets and diverting at-risk youth to appropriate resources and programs.
“We must end the escalating cycle of violent crime in our city and in our county. AVERT will tackle this urgent challenge head-on, taking an innovative and proactive approach to ensure public safety,” Ryan said in a press release. “We all agree this cycle of tit-for-tat violence and crime is unacceptable, and today we’re taking a major step forward — as a community — in our efforts to bring it to an end. AVERT will empower and work with our community members and leaders to de-escalate violence, stop the flow of illegal guns into our streets and offer alternative paths to our youth.”
“AVERT is a collaborative investment between law enforcement, local government, and the community it serves,” Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa said in the release. The sheriff added that the program’s goal is to build trust between law enforcement officials in the community.
“Through a combination of enhanced attention, investment, enforcement and prosecution, we believe we can achieve focused deterrence of at-risk young adults and stop the cycle of violence,” Clegg said.
Kingston mayor Noble said in the release that the partnership represents an evidence-based approach to remove illegal weapons off the city’s streets helping to violent crime.
“By partnering with county government, our mental health partners, the District Attorney’s Office and other policing jurisdictions, AVERT will allow us to redouble our efforts to curb gun violence,” Noble said.
In March, Ryan held a discussion between elected officials and religious and community leaders to discuss and outline a community-wide action plan in response to the recent surge of gun violence in the City of Kingston and Ulster County.
County officials also recently launched the Lights on Kingston youth program, along with announcing $240,320 in funding to be dedicated for Ulster County to participate in the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative, which seeks to reduce gun violence and save lives in communities with high rates of firearm-related violence across the state.